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Oodua People's Congress

Emeritus Professor Pa Stephen Adebanji Akintoye

On Chanel TV, reading letter from the Fulani terrorists on their intent to wage war on Nigeria

Oodua People's Congress

The Oodua People's Congress (also known as OPC) is one of the major and foremost self determination groups of the Yoruba people. As obvious, it derives its name from that of Oduduwa, the ancestor of the Yoruba race. 

 

This powerful and amazingly widespread group was formed in August 1994 with the primary aim of defending, protecting and promoting Yoruba interests. Some other ethnic groups, such as the Igbo and the Ijaw, had also formed their own organizations. However, under successive military governments in the 1990s, freedom of expression and association were even more severely restricted, and members of groups calling for autonomy or agitating for greater power for particular ethnic groups were arrested and harassed by the authorities, in some cases on the basis of allegations that they had carried out acts of violence. Those arrested included Frederick Fasehun, leader of the OPC, who was detained in 1996 for a year and a half.

In addition to its broad aims, the creation of the OPC was a specific reaction to the annulment of the elections of June 12, 1993, by the military government of the time, and the subsequent arrest of Moshood Abiola (a Yoruba), the candidate widely believed to have won the cancelled presidential elections, who later died of a heart attack in detention in July 1998. Outrage at the annulment of these elections, combined with the broader struggle against military repression and frustration at political and economic marginalization, acted as strong motivating factors to galvanize the disenfranchised population, particularly the youth.

The OPC professed to protect the integrity of the Yoruba people and promote Yoruba culture and heritage, including the Yoruba language. The fundamental objectives set out in its constitution include the following: "to identify with our historical and cultural origin with a view to re-living the glory of our past for the purpose of posterity; to educate and mobilize the descendants of Oduduwa for the purpose of the above; to integrate the aspirations and values of all the descendants of Oduduwa into a collective platform of an Oodua entity; to monitor the various interests of descendants of Oduduwa and struggle for the protection of these interests; to further the progress of Oodua civilization by protection and promoting our value, mores and the inter-generational transmission of same."

The OPC advocates autonomy for the Yoruba people, although there appear to be differences of opinion as to whether it is seeking autonomy within the Nigerian federation, or aspiring to the creation of a separate republic. In its constitution, one of the aims of the OPC is "to ensure maximum self-determination of the people of Oodua." Its O'odua Bill of Rights states "The Yoruba people have hereby resolved [...] to ensure that the Yoruba people in Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, Kwara and Kogi States are brought together as a distinct federating unit within the Federal Republic of Nigeria." Several OPC representatives and others close to the OPC have stated that, in practice, the organization's minimum demand is an autonomous Yoruba region within the Nigerian federation, with its own political authorities, security forces, and other institutions, but if this is not possible, they will demand complete independence.

 

The former National Secretary of the OPC described their campaign as leading "to the emergence of either an autonomous Southwestern region in a friendly Nigeria or an independent Oduduwa republic out of an unfriendly Nigeria." One of the principal demands of the OPC and other self-determination groups, which has also been voiced by other actors in Nigerian civil society, is the organization of a "sovereign national conference," which would bring together representatives of all ethnic and regional groups to discuss their situation within Nigeria's federal structure and weigh their various demands, with a view to reaching some kind of consensus on the future of that federal structure. To date, the demand for a national conference has been resisted by the federal government, presumably for fear that it would encourage demands on the parts of various groups for a greater share of the nation's resources, or even autonomy or secession which could eventually lead to the disintegration of the federation. Federal government officials would obviously be reluctant to relinquish the significant financial benefits they have derived from the current federal structure.

In its various demands, the OPC has claimed to represent majority public opinion within the Yoruba community. One of the founding members of the OPC told Human Rights Watch: "We represent people and we must tell the government what people want."

 

Generally, few Yoruba publicly contradict or criticize the OPC, but it is not clear whether this is because they agree with or support the OPC, or because they are afraid of the consequences of speaking out against them.